I’m going to preface this with an admission: I have never seen Jane the Virgin. In fact, up until a week ago, I had never seen any of Justin Baldoni’s work. That is, until his TED talk. The talk, titled “Why I’m Done Trying To Be ‘Man Enough‘” moved me deeply. It’s a very rare thing, to see men talk so openly. And Justin spends 20 minutes questioning why men are taught to be stoic and aggressive, why vulnerability and femininity is considered to be weak, and how even the smallest, most subtle phrases used in every day life plant these negative seeds that lead to division.
After watching his talk and being moved to tears, I was curious to hear more. And when I saw that he was described in his ‘about’ section as “an outspoken feminist”, my interest was peaked. I started following him on social media, learning about a new series he created called Man Enough. The series, which is completely free to watch online, seeks to redefine masculinity, sparking a completely open dialogue for both men and women. Justin is joined by a variety of influential men in the industry to have this open discussion, and along the way he also talks to experts in psychology and gender studies. The result is breathtaking.
The first two episodes, which are each approximately 30 minutes long, have been released, and already the series is tackling some massive ideas. From gender norms that have been programmed into us from a very young age to why vulnerability is considered weak. Why many men grow up believing that they cannot cry, that they cannot be emotional because that is weak, and how that affects future friendships and relationships. How being “a real man” by the societal/cultural definition is not the same thing as being a good man. And how all of this affects women, too. Like the fact that when a girl is good at sports, we call her a tomboy. Because somehow, even though it is 2017, it is still ingrained in us that men are stronger than women, and boys are stronger than girls.
How about the fact that the phrase “don’t be such a girl” is still commonly used. Or the fact that I, a woman, have been told numerous times by countless people to “grow a pair”. Again, phrases we are so used to hearing but phrases that are subtly implanting the idea that in order to be strong, we must be more like men. This idea that femininity is bad and masculinity is good is an absurd concept that somehow has yet to die out. And ultimately, this is one of the series’ most unwavering messages. That it’s not about being masculine or feminine, male or female. It’s about finding that balance, because we all have both masculine and feminine energy within us. It’s about being human, and what that really entails.
To say that this series is shattering norms and breaking barriers feels like an understatement. What Justin Baldoni has created is a safe and open place for a necessary conversation, a conversation that, as some of the men in this series suggest, could save lives. With this acceptance and openness, this place free of judgment, suicide rates could lower. We could see a massive shift in our society because this man had the courage to say, “I’m done trying to be ‘man enough'”. Justin, we cannot thank you or praise you enough for what you have created. It is truly incredible.
Episodes 1 And 2 Are Available To Watch For Free On wearemanenough.com. Watch, Admire, Share.